The San Siro resembled a cemetery on Wednesday night, having been littered with the unfulfilled talent of a deteriorating Arsenal side whilst signalling the revival of a sleeping Italian giant.
Let’s not pull any punches, Arsenal were simply abysmal. Their apprehension towards a newly rejuvenated Milan was evident from the first whistle, a sea of red and black stripes engulfed their midfield eager to lay siege upon the Arsenal backline. The most upsetting difference between the two sides was not the gulf in quality but the fact that Milan displayed an unmatched hunger and passion, which belittled the weary stereotypes of Italian football.
The match also signalled the finale of Thierry Henry’s loan spell at the club, who once again leaves behind a distinctly uninspiring squad. Besides Wilshere, Van Persie and the rapidly improving Oxlade-Chamberlain the rest strike me as somewhat ‘fragile’. The leading figures of Adams and Vieira are long gone together with Fabregas, the former talisman of Wenger’s ‘new era’. Perhaps this is what prompted former Gunners favourite Emmanuel Petit to propose a drastic overhaul at the club.
“We shouldn’t hesitate to talk about the end of the cycle. Regardless of age, we have to look seriously at certain players. Right now.” (Daily Mail)
The likes of Rosicky and Arshavin are mere ‘passengers’ in the team, incapable of establishing a foothold in the match as they aimlessly drift around the pitch struggling to make an impact. Their individual contributions to the club are unquestionable, but their performances in recent times have failed to convey a sense of maturity considering their vast experience.
It’s no secret that the departures of Fabregas and Nasri left a gaping wound at the core of the club and the search for their predecessors was never going to be straightforward. However, the growing unrest from the loyal supporters, tired of watching a team fall short of their potential, forced Arsene into a last minute dash round the transfer market. The move struck a chord of desperation and his purchases suggest one of few acts of careless judgement Wenger has committed during his time at Arsenal.
The arrival of Per Mertesacker was expected to signal a new strong presence in the heart of the defence. Sadly anyone who has had the misfortune of playing as former club Werder Bremen on FIFA, will have been well aware of his barely discernible pace and inadequate positioning skills. His performance at Carrow Road earlier in the year gave the impression of a baby giraffe trying to adapt to life in a pair of roller skates.
Andre Santos appears to possess none of the positive stereotypes associated with a Brazilian full back and all of the negative ones. Mikel Arteta was the showcase signing of Wenger’s late flurry, at the very least he will no longer be a thorn in Arsenal’s side whenever they face Everton. However, you get the impression he’s counting down the minutes until his next injury and has failed to stamp his authority in the absence of key players in the midfield. It also occurs to me that he relished being that ‘big fish in a small pond’, which has perhaps hampered his initial performances. The less said about the acquisition of Benayoun the better.
In the darkest of times, some lights shine brightest and there’s evidence of this with a few individuals within Wenger’s squad. Laurent Koscielny has grown in stature this season in amongst the tentative performances of defensive pairing Johan Djourou and young Carl Jenkinson. Emmanuel Frimpong looks extremely capable of putting that bite back into the midfield, whilst Wenger will hope Henri Lansbury and Ryo Miyaichi will enjoy similar progress out on loan as Jack Wilshere did at Bolton.
Arsenal fans have long been crying out for a world class signing and perhaps Wenger will seek to please in the summer, regardless of the new Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. He will need to act quick if he is to secure the signing of Lille starlet Eden Hazard, with the playmaker seemingly favouring a move to Spurs as it represents the best opportunity of a regular playing spot and Champions League football. Other names frantically circled on Arsene’s shortlist supposedly include French midfielder (surprise, surprise) Yann M’Villa and Dortmund danger man Mario Gotze. The 19-year old German’s raw technical ability and inspired creativity means his list of admirers is growing by the day.
Perhaps Arsene could replicate Manchester City’s transfer exploits by seeking out unsettled superstars at rival clubs. Would Arsenal fans approve of a move for want away striker Carlos Tevez, the main obstacle would surround his vast wage bill but he would undoubtedly favour relocating to London from Manchester. Without seeking to inflict the wrath of The Reds, could a move for Luis Suarez be a potential alternative, if rumours of unrest at Liverpool hold any legitimacy.
It’s evident that a transformation needs to take place at Arsenal to lift the club out from their downward spiral, but should it also include the manager? An exit in the FA Cup against high flyers Sunderland could spell the end for the Frenchman. Subscribers to the ‘In Wenger we trust’ faction appear to be dwindling, could free flowing, attacking football bring success under Frank Rijkaard or maybe Fabio Capello, whose achievements at club level are unrivalled.
If Highbury was known as the library then the Emirates is danger of becoming a museum, serving only to house Arsenal’s past glories. One thing’s for sure, Arsenal need something to cheer about and fast.
Come find me on Twitter @theunusedsub where we can collectively reminisce over the goals of Ian Wright.